The 36-year-old East Wind Community Inc., a commune in the Missouri Ozarks, has a Salmonella problem inside its nut butter manufacturing facility.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said its inspectors collected samples from inside the East Wind nut butter plant and its laboratory analysis discovered the presence of Salmonella.

East Wind manufactures Almond Butter, Peanut Butter, Organic Peanut Butter, Roasted Peanuts, Cashew Butter, Tahini and Organic Tahini.  Tahini is seed butter made from sesame seeds.  The commune has been making Nut Butters since the 1980s.

In Warning Letter sent to East Wind on Oct. 5, 2009, FDA said its considers products manufactured at the nut butter plant to be adulterated because they were “prepared, packed or held under insanitary conditions whereby [they] may have become contaminated with filth, or whereby [they] may have been rendered injurious to health.”

FDA said samples were positive for Salmonella in seven different locations near both production lines.  Serotypes S. Java was found in one sample, and S. Newport in the six others.  FDA said five of the six S. Newport strains had identical Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns.

“This is significant because these five samples were located in five different locations in both production rooms indicating that S. Newport may have been transported throughout your production areas and established niche areas of colonize,” FDA’s Kansas City District Director John W. Thorsky said in the letter to the commune.

One of the six S. Newport serotypes was found near where caps are applied to seal open containers of the ready-to-eat product.  “This close proximity increases the potential of contamination of the product with Salmonella,” Thorsky added.

The FDA warning urges East Wind to take “prompt and aggressive actions to eliminate the Salmonella contamination addressed in this letter.”

“Bacteria may enter and/or be transported through a food plant by a variety of routes that include, but are not limited to: roof leaks; the shoes of employees, contractors, and visitors; the wheels of fork lifts, pallet movers, and moveable equipment; soiled pallets; soiled raw material packaging; on raw ingredients, particularly peanuts, tree nuts, and cocoa beans; and rodent vectors,” FDA advises.

“Once established on production area floors, the organism can contaminate food and food-contact surfaces either through human or mechanical means.”
East Wind’s Internet sales site makes no mention of the Salmonella problem at its plant, which is located on County Road 547 near Tecumseh, MO.  The site does say its products were not involved with the Salmonella outbreak involving products made by Peanut Corporation of America, which resulted in 700 illnesses and nine deaths nationwide in late 2008 and early 2009.

Mother Jones Magazine carried a story on East Wind in 1984 by Kathy Bennett, a commune member.

“We’ve chosen,” Bennett wrote, “to base our society on cooperation … as an alternative to the material wastefulness, competitiveness, and isolation of the “outside” world. Thus, we hold our land, labor, and businesses in common.

“All income generated by our activities belongs to the community, and we decide as a group what projects we’ll undertake, what goods we’ll purchase, and how we’ll divide them. Since we share the use of our vehicles and laundry and kitchen facilities, we need fewer of them to provide “enough.”

The commune owns about 1,045 acres in the Missouri Ozarks near the Arkansas border.

With the exception of some daily chore assignments, commune members set their own work routines.